You've probably heard that there are two types of divorces, uncontested and contested. In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse have already agreed on the terms of the divorce agreement, including who should have custody of the child, whether one spouse should receive alimony, and how to distribute your property.
You don’t have to appear in court if you file for an uncontested divorce. Your divorce attorney will handle everything for you as per your interests. We at the Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer have extensive experience in filing for an uncontested divorce. Over the years, we have helped numerous men and women in Los Angeles obtain the most favorable terms when separating from their spouses. If, after reading this article, you will still have some questions about uncontested divorce, you can reach out to us. We will be delighted to offer you any form of professional legal help that you require.
What is an Uncontested Divorce?
The term ‘uncontested’ simply means that you and your spouse have not disagreed on any aspect of the divorce. You can file for an uncontested divorce in two ways. The first method is where one spouse files for divorce proceedings via a petition, and the other spouse does not respond to it. Due to a lack of response from the other spouse, the court will enter a default judgment. The second method involves both spouses filing a joint petition, which states that they would like to obtain an uncontested divorce.
Likewise, there are two types of uncontested divorce: uncontested divorce without issues and uncontested divorce with issues. Spouses who have been married for less than five years may file for an uncontested divorce without issues via summary dissolution, since they may not have to worry about division of joint property, child custody, or spousal support. On the other hand, couples who have been together for more than five years may opt for an uncontested divorce with issues. This is because they may have probably accrued joint property and had one or more children who need support, and one or both of them should have legal and physical custody.
The procedure for an uncontested divorce is completed within a minimum of six months from the date of service. The judge doesn't have to hear about your case if you file for an uncontested divorce. You can handle it by mail, or the court’s clerk will resolve everything for you.
A divorce will become 'contested' if you and your spouse disagree on one or more issues related to the separation. In a contested divorce, after one party has filed for divorce, the other party should file a response to the divorce. The response should state the aspects of the divorce he/she disagrees with. Then, a hearing will be scheduled. The judge will listen to both spouses and make a ruling.
Sometimes, you can file for divorce as 'contested,' but it later turns out to become 'uncontested.' This is especially in situations where you and your spouse have agreed with the help of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms on the aspects of your divorce.
Opting for an uncontested divorce is much cheaper, and it will save you time. You will be able to separate peacefully with your spouse, and you won't have to go through draining and hectic court processes just to obtain a divorce.
Who can File for an Uncontested Divorce?
An uncontested divorce is perfect for spouses who still get along comfortably, and they do not harbor bitter feelings against each other. Such spouses can listen to sound, financial, and legal advice with a clear mind and work towards obtaining the most favorable outcome for the benefit of themselves and their children.
Spouses who would also like to save money and time should opt for an uncontested divorce instead of a contested one. The process for uncontested divorce ends quickly, and you will be able to move forward with your life.
An uncontested divorce is also ideal if you would like to protect your children from unnecessary trauma and stress that comes during separation. In a contested divorce, children will most likely be deeply involved in the entire process, and face their parents' emotions and hostility towards each other. When you opt for an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse will focus on co-parenting your children and raising them in the best way possible.
Not every person can file for an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce will not work in cases involving domestic violence or child abuse. It is also not suitable if you have a narcissistic spouse or a spouse who intends to separate your children from you or hiding several assets.
Requirements for an Uncontested Divorce without Issues
You must meet several specific requirements for you to file for an uncontested divorce without issues. Your divorce attorney will proceed through summary dissolution, provided that you have fulfilled the following requirements:
- One spouse must be a California resident for a minimum of six months and a resident of the county you intend to file for divorce for a minimum of three months
- Each spouse must be acquainted with the provisions of the summary dissolution booklet
- The ground for the divorce is ‘irreconcilable differences’
- Both spouses have appended their signatures to all documents relating to the transfer of assets and liabilities, as per the settlement agreement
- Both spouses have signed a settlement agreement that divides all debts and assets
- The period between when the spouses married and when they separated does not exceed five years
- The total value of the marital assets does not exceed $43,000, including retirement and deferred compensation, but not cars
- None of the spouses owns separate assets whose worth is more than $43,000
- None of the spouses has real property beside a less than one-year lease
- Both spouses do not have unpaid debts that exceed $6,000, apart from car notes
- None of the spouses wants alimony
- There is no minor child involved, and the female spouse is not pregnant
You should consult a Los Angeles Divorce Attorney to ensure that you and your spouse have fulfilled all the requirements for uncontested divorce via summary dissolution. If you have met all the requirements, your attorney will help you to draft a settlement agreement, which you will present in court.
Negotiating a Settlement Agreement for an Uncontested Divorce
You will need a settlement agreement when filing for an uncontested divorce, regardless of whether it is with issues or without issues. This agreement will cover all the aspects of the divorce, including child custody and support and distribution of debts and property. Both parties should sign the settlement agreement. The settlement agreement will be filed in court together with the divorce petition. When negotiating a settlement agreement for an uncontested divorce, you should take into regard the following issues:
- Child Custody
No other divorce aspect can become more emotionally volatile and contested than child custody. You and your spouse should agree on who should have child custody for the uncontested divorce to be successful.
Also, you should know which is the best time to divorce with kids. Agree with your spouse when you should talk to your children about the divorce to prepare them emotionally.
You can meet with your spouse and look at each other's schedules, to evaluate the best time for each other to have contact with the children. Both of you can have regular contact because California's family laws permit both legal and physical joint custody.
Most dads believe that the court favors women in matters concerning child custody. This belief is not true. Fathers should know their rights, and advocate for themselves to have adequate time to bond with their children.
As a parent, you would want the best for your children. Therefore, you shouldn’t limit the number of hours your spouse should have contact with the kids. Children need the love and support of both the mother and the father to accomplish their goals.
The overriding legal principle which you should consider when negotiating for custody is the best interests of the child. You can have a look at the Los Angeles County Parenting Guidelines to get suggestions on the various types of custody arrangements and their pros and cons. Make sure you and your spouse agree on the following issues:
- Who will move out
- How the children will study
- How the kids will spend their holidays, including special days like birthdays
- Which religious activities the children should participate in
- Whether you will consider the decision of older children (teenagers) on whom they should stay with
- How the children will access medical care
- Out of the country or out of state travel and its restrictions
- If one of the parents will be mandated to make significant decisions concerning the child's life because he/she is in a much better position to do so
- Child Support
It will be quite easy for you to negotiate for child support with your spouse if you are both W-2 employees and your income can be easily computed, unless you have custody disputes. Self-employed spouses may entangle themselves into a child support battle since it will be hard to determine how much each spouse makes in a specific period. You should consider various guidelines while calculating child support.
In California, the total value of child support is calculated by a specially designed computer program. This computer program incorporates different guideline factors to come up with an exact dollar figure of the total amount of child support.
The child support agreement should cover who will pay for uninsured healthcare expenses, who will provide primary health insurance coverage for the children, and who will cater to non-childcare costs such as private tuition or extracurricular activities. The total value of the child support should be reasonable, and not just the minimum necessary.
You can exchange with your spouse your paystubs for the past twelve months, to enable each of you to receive a documented history of the other spouse's income capability. This way, it will be much easier for you to calculate what each spouse should contribute towards child support.
The amount of parenting time may also affect the value of child support. Some family lawyers have specific charts and tables to help them denote parenting time into percentages, which is later converted for purposes of calculating child support.
Child support lasts until the kid reaches 18 years old, but only if he/she has completed high school. You will still have to cater to child support if the child is in high school, yet he/she is 18 years. In such a scenario, the child will be eligible for support until he/she is a high school graduate, turns 19 years old, marries, dies, becomes emancipated, or becomes capable of supporting himself/herself.
You may want to extend support beyond 18 years, especially if you would like to help your child pursue a college degree. If this is the case, you should hire an experienced divorce attorney to draft proper legal clauses that express your interest to extend child support.
The value of child support is modifiable when circumstances change. The judge will go through your settlement agreement for him/her to assess whether the amount of child support is reasonable and if you considered the following factors:
- Number of children
- Hardship deductions to cater for extraordinary healthcare expenses, uninsured catastrophic losses, and the basic living standards of other children of the parent
- The total amount of time each parent has physical contact with the child
- Property tax and mortgage interest deductions
- How many federal exemptions each parent claims
- The cost of health insurance premium
- The taxable and non-taxable income of each parent
- The tax filing status of each parent
- Mandatory retirements pay deductions
- Spousal Support
You should rely on the income of each spouse when negotiating for alimony, and also consider the provisions of California Family Code 4320. It will be hard to figure out the right amount of spousal support without the help of an attorney because California's alimony laws are incredibly complex.
When you hire a divorce attorney to help you negotiate for spousal support, he/she will first assess the total income of both of you. Then, he/she will evaluate the factors listed in Family Code 4320, and come up with suitable figures which you and your spouse can choose from as the value of alimony.
When you and your spouse take shortcuts and negotiate for alimony on your own, you will come up with wrong figures that will result in an overpayment or underpayment. It is also challenging to make modifications to the value of alimony later on life because you will be required to show proof of a change of circumstances.
- Joint Property
Each spouse must be accurate and honest in property disclosures to ensure success in dividing joint property. It will be much easier to divide community property if the husband and wife are from the middle-income bracket and own a home, bank accounts, cars, and even retirements and a 401(k). This is because such couples can easily verify all of their financial accounts and properties.
In case the family home was purchased by the joint efforts of both spouses, you can obtain its appraisal and split it equitably. For instance, one spouse can take the home, and then the other spouse offsets himself/herself with other different properties. Or rather, both spouses can agree to sell the home and divide the proceeds of the sale amongst themselves.
Cars are quite simple to divide. Both spouses can keep their own vehicles, and one spouse can make payments to offset the other spouse if his/her car has a higher value.
Just agreeing to divide the joint property is not sufficient. You should ensure that you get the legal title to the ownership of the transferred property, including it being registered in your name and procuring insurance for it.
Retirements and 401(k)s are difficult to settle, and you should seek the help of an attorney who is knowledgeable in domestic relations orders. Such an attorney will ensure that your settlement agreement concerning 401(k)s and retirements comply with the provisions of both federal and state law.
You can divide bank accounts from the separation date unless one spouse has contributed towards the acquisition of joint property after separation. Both spouses should exchange bank statements for all their accounts and agree on the value of the balances before separation. Care should be taken to determine how much balance you owned jointly with your spouse since most spouses still deposit their post-separation income in joint accounts.
If the bank accounts involve large dollar figures, you should analyze them carefully. It isn’t smart to throw away dollars you are entitled to because you do not know what the future holds for you.
Find a Los Angeles Divorce Attorney Near Me
Ideally, you would like to have an uncontested divorce. Though California family law may need you to complete your divorce in court, it will be much simpler if you get along with your spouse and agree on all the divorce terms.
At the Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer, we can help you agree amicably with your spouse on the divorce terms, and at the same time, vouch for your interests. We will also assist you in filing for an uncontested divorce. If your spouse disputes the divorce terms, we will represent your interests in court to ensure your legal rights are protected. Call us today at 310-695-5212 for a free consultation.